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On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the Azusa High girls softball team took the field for its first preseason game. It wasn't perfect, with all the excitement and errors that come from first-game jitters. But a lopsided score - 22-2 - gave the Aztecs' and their friends and family members plenty to cheer about.
But more importantly Principal Ramiro Rubalcaba was reassured that - for what was a history-making first game - girls were allowed to be girls.
Azusa High School senior Pat Cordova-Goff joined her teammates on the softball field as one of the state's first openly transgender student-athletes to compete on the high school level.
The 17-year-old, who was born male but identifies as a female, is one of the first to take advantage of recent changes by the California Interscholastic Federation and the state education code that establish nondiscriminatory policies based on students' gender identity.
Cordova-Goff, who has identified as transgender since her sophomore year of high school, said Assembly Bill 1266's passing allowed her to return to a sport she loves, surrounded by teammates with which she feels comfortable. The Associated Student Body president and 4.0 grade-point average student said she also has felt supported by her principal and the Azusa Unified School District, such as when she established the school's first Gay-Straight Alliance club and when she ran for homecoming queen in September.
"We have policies about nondiscrimination based on race, religion, gender, gender identity and gender expression," Azusa Unified Superintendent Linda Kaminski said. "We take those seriously and try to implement them faithfully, and the story here is that we did that and we have had a consistent approach of trying to be fair to all students."
Support like this is important for transgender students, LGBT advocates say.
"Transgender youth, like so many other young people, want those same kinds of experiences" that the CIF policy and A.B. 1266 allow, said Carolyn Laub, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. "(The experience) of doing the sport you love, that sense of belonging to a team."
But the new law has vocal opponents, including a Chino-based group that attempted to bring the issue to the November ballot.
"There's a number of problems with this (A.B. 1266), when the rights of a few infringe on the rights of many," said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills.
Helen Carroll, sports project director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has worked with a variety of state and sports organizations, including the NCAA and CIF, to establish inclusive policies for all student-athletes. The former basketball coach also travels around the country speaking to groups and answering questions about policies similar to A.B. 1266, which are in effect in at least 11 other states.
Most parents often are encountering LGBT issues for the first time and have concerns about safety and privacy for their children in bathrooms and locker rooms. These questions are valid and should be brought up to the administration, she said.
"Ask the coach or principal, see what they're doing" to address privacy and safety concerns for all of the students. Each student has a right to privacy, transgender or not, Carroll said.
Cordova-Goff has opted not to use the locker rooms, the Azusa superintendent said, but there are private changing areas within the locker room for any student to use.
CIF officials do not have data on the number of transgender student-athletes participating in CIF sports in the state, said Al Goldberg, assistant director at the CIF state office. And neither does Los Angeles Unified School District, which has had transgender- inclusive policies in place since 2005.
"Any athlete just needs to try out" to participate in a gendered sport at LAUSD, said Judy Chiasson, the coordinator in the district's office of Human Relations, Diversity and Equity. "And they'll be evaluated on the merit of their own performance."
In the Aztecs' first three games, Cordova-Goff has had a reserve role on the team, playing two innings in the outfield and coming in twice as a pinch runner. Her only at-bat so far was a bunt single, though she was immediately called out when she left base too early, a rule difference between baseball and softball.
There is more of a difference in the range of talent among girls and boys separately than there is between the two genders, Chiasson said, addressing concerns about the potential unfair advantage posed by a transgender student with a male body competing against other girls.
In a February interview, Cordova-Goff said she had not undergone any hormone therapies, while Carroll said that medical intervention for transgender students under the age of 18 should not be a decision made by an athletic board.
"What a boy would have to do," Carroll said, "is bring their parents in, they would have to be dressing as a girl and living their life as a girl every day. And we have not seen any high school boy do that to be able to play on a girls team ever. And that's in college or even in the Olympics."